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Old 01-10-2018, 01:51 PM   #1
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Question "Small software" for fast 3D orbits visualization

Reading a sentence by a FOI member written in a post about an Earth-Moon off-plane transfer, namely:

schumifun wrote:
... To be precise, I can not mentally visualize how this can happen...
made me think that I also often have difficulties in visualizing three-dimensionally what I do (or merely plan to do) in Orbiter, with all these balls tumbling in the Universe!!! And it's a problem I would like to solve.
I'm not afraid to reveal that in the past I helped myself with oranges, apples and similar spherical stuff, other more sophisticated times with sketches and drawings (even if I'm not that good at it).

As paradoxical asking this question on this forum may be, do you know of any software that correctly simulates orbits and more, but in a "smaller" solar system? I don't mean KSP. A bit like the orange/apple model (hence the title "small software").
It should focus on a more easily usable educational aspect rather than on a faithful real reproduction in a 3D model.

I know there are lots of sites that offer "online solar system" models, but these also simulate real distances. The beautiful NASA Eyes on the Solar Sytem, for example (as good as it is), wouldn't help me, and not even the various Stellarium, Celestia, etc ...
Those who start programming such software rightly aim to do it realistical, they want to simulate reality, and it's more than understandable. No one would think of doing something like a "little game", yet answering the rules of full fledged real orbital mechanics.

Instead I would like a small model, to be (metaphorically) held in hand.
I'd like to have a three-dimensional model of, for example, Earth-Moon (different from the scheme offered by Orbiter's MFDs), and see in real time what happens i.e. to the encounter, if I do this or that in LEO, or during an MCC. I wish I could have the opportunity to change things like my orbital inclination and see the consequences, or activate at will the display of various parameters: Nodes, orbital planes, a bit like in this video (at 2:16):

In short, a kind of fusion between a mechanical orrery and the digital world ...

We already have something that approaches (some more, some less) to what I say:
- Videnie with Orbiter2010 (no D3D9)
- Orbits and Orbiter2016 + D3D9 (alas, still waiting for some loving care)
- IMFD's map and IMFD's 3D movable screens
- Encounter view in TransX
- Encounter MFD
- Map 3D MFD
- etc...

but distances in Orbiter are the real ones!

I realize that what I write already exists in Orbiter (see TransX, encounter view), but what I have in mind is something more focused on teaching, dissemination of scientific knowledge, experiment, more than a real and complex application as Orbiter.
Sure, in the end it should still do what Orbiter does, but make it more immediately visible and understandable, in what I would call a childish sandbox.

Perhaps it could be the next tool to be developed..."just" shrink Orbiter's scale and keep its engine underneath (and add lots of drawable objects).
Please tell me if something like that already exists, and if there is, send in your bank account!

Last edited by Ripley; 01-10-2018 at 01:58 PM. Reason: typos here and there
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Old 01-10-2018, 03:45 PM   #2

Back is 2013, I shrunk the earth to a radius of 20m and a smaller mass. I put the Atlantis in orbit and I could see the Atlantis orientation as it moved around the earth. I did not get around to scaling the engines. If I slowed time down to 0.1, I could see the reaction to the SMS and RCS. At real time, it flew out of orbit.

Earth config:
; === Physical Parameters ===
Mass = 0.0047e+15
Size = 20 ; mean radius
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Old 01-10-2018, 04:04 PM   #3
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Sigh... That was one of the first versions of what eventually became Spaceway - a gravity simulator with nice visualization of what was going on. I used it to learn how all these things move myself, about 15 years ago.
Not a chance of that code working again, however, and i'll have to rewrite it from scratch and perhaps even compile to JS for it to be of any use.

More to the point, have you tried the "Universe sandbox" game?
Or is it of the wrong sort of "play with the solar system"?
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Old 01-10-2018, 04:18 PM   #4
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Try posting this idea in the KSP forums. KSP is already a shrinked "childish" sandbox, just made into a game IIRC. Perhaps they can add a special mode that makes it less a game and more a sandbox again.
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Old 01-10-2018, 04:41 PM   #5
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It's a question of nice UI, right? Because tweaking the actual sim engine, even Orbiter, is not that hard.
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Old 01-10-2018, 09:38 PM   #6
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Thanks all for your answers.
Yes Artlav, a nice UI would be definitely welcome!
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